Dane County and MGE Kick Off Expanded Solar Farm Project at Dane County Regional Airport

September 04, 2019
Ariana Vruwink (608) 267-8823
County Executive

The Installation is Now Set to Span 58 Acres and Generate Approximately 40% of the County Government’s Electrical Needs

Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Keebler to kick off the expanded solar farm project at the Dane County Regional Airport. The project is set to be the largest solar farm in Dane County and one of the largest solar installations in the State of Wisconsin.

Dane County is entering into a service agreement with MGE for the purchase of renewable electric energy produced by a 9-megawatt PV solar system to be installed at the Dane County Regional Airport. When complete, the PV solar system will span approximately 58 acres of airport property and include more than 31,000 solar panels. The county’s purchase of renewable electricity from this airport solar project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an amount equivalent to the emissions produced by 2,700 cars or the burning of 7,000 tons of coal per year.

“Entering into this agreement with MGE to install one of the largest solar farms in Wisconsin is a win for local clean energy jobs, our environment, and Dane County taxpayers,” said County Executive Joe Parisi. “Dane County is committed to becoming 100% renewable at its facilities. This historic project and its expansion brings us closer to achieving that milestone even sooner.”

"MGE looks forward to partnering with Dane County on this local solar project. We support the County's efforts to achieve 100% renewable energy for its facilities," said MGE Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler. "MGE is working toward net-zero carbon electricity for all of our customers by the year 2050. This project is another step in our active transition toward greater use of cost-effective, clean energy sources to serve our community. By working together, we can reach shared energy goals."

All told, the solar farm project is estimated to produce approximately 40% of the county’s electricity needs to power county-owned facilities. Increasing the county’s use of renewable electricity will help reduce climate change carbon emissions and save taxpayer dollars. The 30-year service agreement specifies that the county will purchase approximately 18 million kW hours annually at a cost of 5.8 cents per kW hour resulting in first year energy savings of approximately $137,000. There is no upfront capital requirement for Dane County.

This project was previously set to span 41 acres with some 20,000 solar panels and generate approximately 8 megawatts of renewable power. The larger size means a greater cost savings for Dane County taxpayers and the county achieving its 100% renewable energy plan more quickly.

The location of the solar infrastructure will be on county property north of the Dane County Regional Airport in the Town of Burke. MGE will own and finance the construction and operation of the PV solar system at the airport site to serve the electric power needs of the county. Dane County and MGE had previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the objective of pursuing the installation of a PV solar system at the Dane County Regional Airport.

Dane County and MGE are expected to break ground on the solar farm project in the spring of 2020, with construction expected to culminate by the end of the summer. The solar farm is expected to go online in the fall of 2020.

The county is committed to significantly increasing the amount of its electric load serviced by renewable energy sources to achieve 100% renewable status for county facilities. Dane County currently owns more solar than any other county in the state, generating over 600 kW of power at 16 county-owned facilities. The solar farm project will be the third solar installation at the Dane County Regional Airport. It will also double as a boost to pollinator habitat for dwindling monarch and honey-bee populations.

This solar farm project is being pursued under MGE's new Renewable Energy Rider, which gives MGE and large energy users the opportunity to partner to tailor a renewable energy solution to meet a customer's needs. The innovative model is one way to grow renewable energy in our community.

MGE is targeting net-zero carbon electricity by the year 2050. In the near term, under MGE's Energy 2030 framework for a more sustainable future, MGE has been working toward carbon dioxide emissions reductions of at least 40% by 2030 from 2005 levels, which is consistent with U.S. emissions targets established as part of the Paris Agreement on climate change. To reach these goals, MGE is growing its use of renewable energy, engaging customers around energy efficiency and facilitating the electrification of transportation, all of which are key strategies identified by the United States for deep decarbonization.

A resolution to authorize the execution of the service agreement with MGE will be introduced to the Dane County Board at tomorrow night’s meeting.